In the quest to be everything for everyone, some companies fail to be anything for anyone.
Old dogma preaches that companies will miss out on opportunities by not chasing every lead or trying to attract every consumer in the market. In truth, the most successful brands are becoming more and more specialized.
Think about the brands that have become relevant in the last 10 to 15 years. Need workout gear? Lululemon or Athleta. At-home workout? Peloton. Need a (non-toxic, organic, handcrafted) mattress? Go to Avocado.
The challenge for service-based professions — those of us who are investment advisors, lawyers, real estate agents, and bankers (among others) — is that we cannot rely on the quality of a physical product to create consumer loyalty. So then, how do you showcase value when your product is intangible? With commitment.
And, like in any good relationship, there is no commitment without connection and trust. You are much more likely to create the two organically by identifying a specific audience and then infusing impact into every interaction. If the quality of your service is your product, then your value is found in building meaningful bonds with your consumers.
Consistency Builds Trust
Product-based brands showcase value with delivery. Take the iPhone. Apple’s customer journey, whether in the physical store or on the web, is curated and memorable. Every time someone uses an iPhone, they feel connected to Apple. The product and the brand are synonymous.
But you can’t hold a service in your hand like an iPhone. Even when we deliver well, our services may not be needed again for years. With consumers now demanding high-value experiences and AI-generated content redefining customer-facing roles, service brands are effectively facing a trust crisis.
This is an opportunity to refocus on the fundamentals. Delivering consistent quality is part of the commitment we make to our customers. As a consumer myself, I am a devoted listener of NPR and segments like “Marketplace” and “Fresh Air.” I am loyal because I know what to expect, and they always deliver.
NPR has a rusted-on audience, and that relationship translates to revenue. Listeners are more likely to work with an NPR-associated company because of their positive associations. It’s called the halo effect. Does everyone like NPR? It doesn’t matter. Their success is built on bringing value to their specific audience.
Trust Builds Loyalty
Those of us bruised by experience know that trust is the exception among a skeptical public. Only 30% of people say they trust businesses, with car salespeople, politicians, and real estate agents propping up the trust list. Painfully, just 11% of people trust real estate agents.
How much stereotypes are in play is harder to quantify, but those statistics are baffling given that service-based brands live and die by word-of-mouth reputation. While Apple can use customers flashing their logo to promote brand awareness, the service industry doesn’t have the same luxury.
I cut my teeth in Mercedes Benz’s management and training program, so I see things differently than the average real estate professional. When I first made the transition to real estate, I couldn’t figure out why no one was using planning, objectives, or goal-setting. Why were there no budgets or strategies? It soon became clear to me that if you’re not proactive, you’re reactive — this was the missing piece. It shaped how we approached building OFFICIAL, the global real estate company I co-founded.
Without thoughtful planning, quality suffers and consumer trust is sacrificed. But many business leaders are oblivious. In PwC’s 2022 trust survey, 87% of executives believed consumers “highly trust” their companies, while only 30% of consumers shared that view. It’s a “jarring” trust gap that can be bridged by communicating your brand as a customized experience.
Loyalty Builds Brands
If you want to be a go-to brand, it’s not enough for people to only think of you when they need something. At our agency, we do more than sell properties. As a luxury specialist, concierge service, and hybrid family/office, we are our clients’ gateway to an entire lifestyle ecosystem. By making valuable introductions to sought-after interior designers, architects, and investors, our clients understand our value transcends the transaction. When their first move-in anniversary comes around, I often send a personal chef to celebrate the occasion.
Consistent quality may build trust, but the more intangible nuances of connection need constant reinforcement. Even though the need for your service may be infrequent, you can still stay top of mind for your client — exactly where you want to be as a brand —by being a consistent presence.
But impersonal and templated approaches won’t cut it. Take the time to learn small details about your client — their families, professions, interests, and values. Don’t wait to be recommended. You own three channels: Your website, social media, and email. Use them. Set calendar notifications and reminders for client birthdays, anniversaries, and major events.
Clients need to feel connected, guided, and supported, with more than 80% of consumers saying personalization impacts their choice to do repeat business. McKinsey research also found that companies that are especially good at personalization bring in over 40% more revenue than their competitors. Those strong relationships create the halo effect, turning a brand from an afterthought to a go-to.
Becoming a Go-To Brand
Every client interaction is an opportunity to stand out, but not everyone in the world is meant to be your client. Once you have an audience and a service, the experience you create is table stakes. Building authentic, lasting relationships starts with a personal touch and doesn’t end when the sale closes. Whether you’re an actor, accountant, architect, or entrepreneur, create value at every touchpoint of the client journey to build a brand that’s more than just a name — but a legacy.